Fishbox

Lizzy Caston

Location: SE 43rd and Belmont, Good Food Here
Hours:
Tues-Sun, 12 – 8pm

The Story: A friend and I were lamenting the lack of great seafood restaurants in Portland. No, sushi doesn’t count. Yes, we have Granddad places of varying quality such as Jake’s or Dan & Louis Oyster Bar, Fish n’ Chip shops, and a couple of young gastronomic upstarts (the fancy fish place in Fox Tower downtown for example). And yes, you can get great seafood in markets, a few other carts, and it’s always available on most restaurant menus. But, unlike other port cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, Boston or New Orleans, Portland dining isn’t just very seafood focused. Perplexing.

When Dustin and Angie, the owners of the very new Fishbox cart started daydreaming, FISH is what they came up with, a plan that’s been hatching in Dustin’s head since at least 2003. “I was up on the Columbia River, and it was salmon season, and people were up at Mt. Hood fly fishing for trout, and I thought, man, we have all this seafood around and near Portland, we need a really great fish cart,” Dustin told me in an interview one sunny spring day. He comes from formal culinary school training, and years and years working in Portland’s restaurant industry. Dustin was burned out working for crazy restaurant owners and living the often hard livin’, hard partyin’ restaurant lifestyle. The man knows his way around a kitchen for sure though, and knows how to handle fish dishes. From the food I sampled, he’s a hell of a great cook.

Dustin and his partner Angie took their time opening and have put a lot of thought into the menu and kitchen of this simple white van. It’s a great lesson for other wanna be cart owners. “I wanted to build out my kitchen and truck from scratch so that I have it and the equipment EXACTLY the way I need it. I didn’t inherit bad equipment or a clunky layout, which will save me money and time in the long run, especially when I get ready to expand” Dustin explained. Dustin was also very picky about getting a van, rather than a trailer type cart to offer more mobile flexibility and because a van is easier to move for catering and other special events. Dustin continued, “it was more expensive upfront than a cart and the build out took longer, but I think it will be worth it.”

But how about that fish? It’s not purely focused on wild seafood or local seafood, but it’s super fresh, very high quality and prepared with a light touch. The day I visited, the menu featured items such as a very chunky, very creamy clam chowder as good as anything you’d find at the coast, a wild salmon satay with Asian style pesto served with rice, a textbook Caesar Salad (with option Ahi tuna or wild salmon), an Ahi Tuna melt sandwich, a dark roux non-seafood gumbo, and Wild Salmon or Ahi Tuna seared tacos. “It’s funny because before I opened I was always telling people, I’m NOT going to be a taco truck,” Dustin laughed, “but tacos have turned out to be my biggest seller and most popular item.”

There’s a reason why. These aren’t your regular petite fistful Mexican tacos in corn tortillas, but large gourmet tacos in soft big flour wraps. Bursting with perfectly cooked and seasoned seafood, and a generous amount of lightly dressed slaw, three to an order is worth the $9. I was plenty full after just two.

Food is always the best part about visiting Portland’s intense food cart scene, and the Fishbox keeps its side of the bargain up quite nicely on that end. But the stories behind the carts really make me smile. Everyone is unique, and has a terrific story to tell. We think it’s the people that contribute as much to our vibrant cart community as much as the food does. The Fishbox is yet another wonderful, friendly, and tasty addition to our always cool food cart scene.

Sample Menu:

  • Seared Ahi Tuna or Wild Salmon Tacos – $9
  • New England Style Clam Chowder – small $4, large $6
  • Veggie Fried Rice Bowl – $5. With tuna or salmon, $9
  • Wild Salmon Satay with Asian pesto and veggie fried rice – $9

Hours: Tues-Sun, 12 – 8pm
Phone:
503-348-5244

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Comments

  1. Just a point of clarification:
    At the top of the posting you list the cart’s location as the “Good Food Here” pod at SE 43rd / SE Belmont.
    However, at the end of the posting you list the cart’s location as SE 50th / SE Division.
    Since I’m a devotee of good fish tacos, I need to the actual location!
    Thanks for the great “back story” about the new Fish Cart. It’s sort of like peeking “behind the curtain” and getting a glimpse of The Wizard.

  2. dieselboi says:

    Bari,
    Sorry for the confusion. They are at Good Food Here on Belmont. Post has been updated.

  3. Bertha Pearl says:

    Love this cart! a bunch of us had a cart dinner, and three of us ordered from here…The salmon and the ahi tacos rocked, and the Salmon Satay and rice…some of the best rice I have had, and the salmon was cooked perfectly. I didn’t taste the gumbo, but everyone loved it. My only slight tastebud quibble, I would have loved a wasabi creme instead of the jalepeno creme on the ahi taco…but really, can’t wait to go back!!!

  4. Excited and drove out here from east division for lunch. Closed without explanation. Figures. Maybe I will try to come back. Sounds good.

  5. I guess it’s tougher to offer quality seafood through a food truck or food cart than a brick and mortar restaurant. I’d imagine there’s a bit of a hesitation with a lot of people to order seafood (other than fish ‘n chips) from a food cart or truck, but in Portland where mobile food is part of the culture I bet it’s nowhere near the same of a concern. The presentation in that last photo look fantastic, by the way.

  6. Dustin Olson says:

    When i set out to sell gourmet seafood in a food cart I took into consideration all the necessities necessary to facilitate a miniature professional kitchen and stuffed it all in the sturdiest vehicle I could lay my hands on: a Grumman-Olson Stepvan, they build aircraft by the way. Handling, and storing fresh seafood in quantity safely can be tricky under questionable conditions. All this was taken into consideration and FishBox was designed and built from the ground up to meet the very special needs and attention to detail that the handling of fresh seafood demands. Thanks out to all food cart owners who paved the way, crushing the the stigma that food carts once had, and thanks to all our supporters who love good food…

  7. Saranwrap8 says:

    Absolutely wonderful gumbo, and only for $4. I didn’t connect with the salmon tacos, but other people really enjoy them. On a sour note: there’s always something with this cart, e.g., fridge broken, run out to get supplies, etc.

  8. Not too long ago I wandered into GFHere for some Lardo (sad they left, glad they expanded to brick and mortar, haven’t been there yet). I was blabbing away with Dustin, and mentioned my mania for chowder. He said “try some!”, and basically handed me a cup. It was delicious, and I am a confirmed chowder head. Then I asked about his gumbo, so he said “try some!”. It was equally as delicious. I would get both…

  9. Hmmm, may not want to get too generous with the “try somes”. Might turn into a “sampling saturday” at Costco! haha

  10. I had a fantastic experience at fish box last week, I came back Tues and Wed nights this week and did not see the cart, my wife was more crushed than me. Has fish box moved to a new location?

  11. Hi Suddy!

    Sometimes carts do catering gigs once in awhile so they will leave for a day or two, they do move without giving us notice, or (sadly) just like some restaurants they can’t seem to make it work for some reason or another and need to close up shop. We suggest calling the number or contacting them using the information we provide at the bottom of each of our write-ups. Thanks for reading and happy cartin’!

  12. I saw Dustin Tonight he is sill there.

  13. Just had the best Poke taco here at the Intel campus for lunch…. Oh my gosh…. AMAZING… Thank you for coming out to Intel….

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